Situating the Avant-Garde in Postwar America: Community, Individualism, and Cold War Culture
This chapter provides a theoretical and historical background for the subsequent analysis of how dissonant companionship plays out in the work of Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and Amiri Baraka. It examines the entrenched concept that the avant-garde is a communal enterprise and will draw attention to the enduring individualism that threatens to explode that notion. It then situates the post-war avant-garde within two crucial contexts to understand better this strain of nonconforming individualism, the profound ambivalence that post-war avant-garde poets feel toward the avant-garde itself, and the theory of discordant friendship that is so central to their work. The chapter looks at how the poets of the 1950s are affected by distinctive features of 1950s Cold War culture.
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